Kiev, June 16, 2022
Since the beginning of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine last February, Ukrainian politicians in tandem with schismatic activists have doubled down on their intent to ban the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On June 13, deputies of the Boryspil City Council at an extraordinary session decided to “suspend the activities of the UOC-MP: for the duration of Russian aggression”.
In a recent response to this crisis, the administrator of the Boryspil Diocese and Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, addressed an open letter to the President of Ukraine. The text of the appeal is posted on the diocesan website, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
This appeal of course applies only to Met. Anthony’s diocese; similar rights violations are in fact occurring throughout Ukraine, and calls to ban the UOC are increasingly being voiced in Ukrainian Parliament. Lvov Regional Council deputies, for example, adopted yesterday a statement calling on the state to legally prohibit the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the country.
Met. Anthony writes:
Honorable Vladimir Alexandrovich!
Expressing my respect for you and assuring you of daily prayers by the clergy and faithful of the Boryspil Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the defenders of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the cessation of war and the establishment of peace in our Homeland, we appeal on this occasion.
The Boryspil Diocese, like all other dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, condemns the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and shares fully in all the sorrows that have befallen our Fatherland and our long-suffering people. The parishes and monasteries of our diocese help refugees, hospitals, military and territorial defense and those in need, and take care of people in difficult situations as a result of the hostilities.
But at the same time, there are forces inside the state that are deliberately undermining the situation on religious grounds.
Recently, deputies of certain local councils have taken decisions to ban (stop the activities of) religious organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on their territories. In the In the Kiev region, such decisions were made by the Brovarsky City Council (May 6, 2022); Pereyaslavsky city and Pristolichny village Council (May 19, 2022); and the Novopetrovsky Village Council (May 29, 2022).
On June 13, 2022, the decision to suspend the activities of the religious communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was made by the Boryspil City Council of the Kiev region. Moreover, deputies of all the political forces represented in the city council, including deputies from the Servant of the People party [Pres. Zelensky’s party], voted unanimously for such a decision. This is hard for us to understand, because we know your position on the need to maintain peace and stability inside the country in order to ensure victory over an external enemy. Believers of the Boryspil diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, like other voters of the Kiev region, voted in the elections of local councils mainly for the Servant of the People party, in hopes that it will respect our constitutional rights and freedoms, including the free confession of their Orthodox faith.
The practice of seizing our Orthodox churches under the pretense of “transitioning” religious communities is also ongoing. To date, the churches of the Boryspil diocese of the UOC have been seized: the village of Sukholuchye in the Vyshgorodsky district, the village of Bolshaya Staritsa and the village of Malaya Staritsa in the Boryspil district, and the village of Selichevka in the Brovarsky district. Attempts were made to seize churches in the Borispol district: Borispol, Ivankov village, Petropavlovsk village, Devichki village, Pereyaslav, Mazinki village, Demyants village, Strokova village, Gaishin village, Bolshaya Karatul village; in Brovary district: Brovary, Zazimye village, Pasechna village, Ostroluchye village; in Vyshgorodsky district: S. Lutezh, Yasnogorodka village.
Those who initiate the “transitioning” of religious communities are often the heads of the territorial communities, mayors of cities, village elders and representatives of local territorial defense. At the same time, the opinion of the members of the religious society is not taken into account; people who have nothing to do with the religious community vote for the transition. There is a direct interference of representatives of state authorities and local self-government in the activities of religious communities of the Boryspil diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
No law or regulatory legal act of Ukraine grants State and local self-government bodies the right to prohibit or interfere in the activities of religious organizations, even under martial law.
All these illegal actions are carried out with the assistance of state and local self-government authorities in favor of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” established in December 2018.
Such events cause outrage among faithful citizens, and contribute to destabilization within the country in wartime. Our believers defend the state with weapons in their hands and work to restore the country. At the same time, behind their backs, false patriots take Orthodox churches, beating and intimidating believers.
Today, there are widespread violations of the rights of believers of the Boryspil Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to freedom of their religion. The situation needs your immediate intervention to preserve peace and stability in the State.
We ask you, honorable Vladimir Alexandrovich, to protect the constitutional rights of Ukrainian citizens—the faithful of the Boryspil Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—to stop religious hostility in Ukrainian society and take necessary measures against lawless actions.
During these difficult trials for the entire Ukrainian nation, we wish you courage and good health.
We call upon the blessing of God for your labors.
With deep respect, Metropolitan of Boryspil And Brovary, Administrator of the Boryspil Diocese.